5 of the Best Horror Books to Make You Love Being Afraid

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Maureen Stinger

Staff Writer

As a child, Maureen Stinger couldn't take the 10-minute ride to the grocery store without at least one book to read in the car. After becoming a lawyer in her early 20s then retiring from law at age 40, Maureen has spent the last few years working as a professional organizer, selling books at Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia, and figuring out what she wants to be when she grows up. She is equally left- and right-brained, which means she enjoys poring over spreadsheets as much as creating colorful things by hand. When not reading or matchmaking readers with their next favorite book, she can be found walking Gatsby the Great Canine, singing with the Richmond Symphony, taking photos of clouds, and doing counted cross-stitch instead of much-needed house repairs. Twitter: @mo_stinger

I loved horror as a kid. I read things that were age-appropriate (RIP, Lois Duncan) and not so much (Stephen King, John Saul, etc.). I loved feeling terrified by a fictional story in the safety of my real life and home. As an adult, however, I didn’t stop liking horror, I just forgot about it . . . until one night late last year, when I grabbed an unknown and dove in, and found again that rush I’d been missing all those years. Whether you’ve never tried it, you’ve lapsed like I did, or you’ve never lost that loving horror feeling, here are five of the best horror books to help you (re)discover the thrill of being scared witless.


5 Horror Novels To Read If You Love Being Afraid | horror books | horror | scary books | book list | halloween | #books


bird box joshua malerman

Bird Box, by Joshua Malerman. This book has been featured on Book Riot many times, and for good reason. Yet despite a lot of buzz when it came out two years ago, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Looking for some brain candy last December, I picked it up for something to start reading right before bed.

Fellow readerfriends, this book TERRIFIED ME. In all the best ways.

For those of you still stuck under the same rock that held me: Something is Out There. Every single person who sees (It? Them?) ends up dead by their own hands, often after brutally murdering others. Five years after the nightmare began, Malorie has survived and is living in a house alone with four-year-old twins who have never seen the outside. She knows this is no life for anyone to live, and probably not safe for much longer. Malerman alternates between flashbacks of the former safe house once full of people but ending up with Malorie alone with two newborns, and the current tale of her journey with the children, rowing down a river, all three of them blindfolded, unseen terrors lurking, approaching . . .

security gina wohlsdorf

Security, by Gina Wohlsdorf. Manderley Bay, the newest, fanciest, classiest resort in Southern California (and possibly the world), is about to open in a couple of days. One of the resort’s biggest draws is its state-of-the-art security system operated by highly-trained former Special Forces personnel. So how is it possible that every employee and visitor to the 20-story hotel is being violently murdered one-by-one in a matter of hours? While someone watches every inch of the property, inside and out?

Because I associate horror with some kind of supernatural element, I first thought this was a thriller. But the entire story is told from the point of view of the person watching the security cameras of the hotel — watching a murderer (or murderers) go from floor to floor, room to office to kitchen, killing people one at a time. The person watching is either unable or unwilling to stop the carnage. What could be more terrifying?

fireman joe hill

The Fireman, by Joe Hill. Another Book Riot favorite pick, I read all 747 pages of this ARC in one sitting. This book didn’t utterly terrify me as much as the others in this post, but let’s review the premise: an epidemic has arrived consisting of a highly contagious spore that causes human beings to spontaneously self-combust.

‘Nuff said.


graveyard apartment mariko koike

The Graveyard Apartment, by Mariko Koike. This 1986 Japanese novel has finally been translated into English, available October 11. A couple and their young daughter find their dream apartment with room to grow in a building built next to a graveyard. The dream slowly turns into a nightmare as one strange thing after another happens, causing neighbors to begin moving out until the young family is alone in the building with someone, or something, lurking in the basement.

It’s easy to see why Koike is one of Japan’s most popular writers, if she can take the classic ghost/haunting story form, add a few dark twists, and manage to scare the pants off of you.

hex thomas olde heuvelt

Hex, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. The town of Black Spring has existed peacefully under a 300-year-old curse. The Black Rock Witch wanders the town, the woods, and the interiors of homes with her eyes and mouth sewn shut, and residents of Black Spring, once established, can never leave. Ever. The town elders have established elaborate protocols and high-tech surveillance both to monitor the witch’s movements, and to ensure that the secret of her existence is kept. But when a group of teenagers begins to test the boundaries of both the rules and the witch herself, the careful web of deception is the least of what is threatened. Heuvelt’s masterfully frightening debut will haunt the reader for days afterward.

I’m still not over it.